The role of women in the WWE has changed dramatically over the last few years, thanks in no small part to the women’s revolution led by the likes of Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Becky Lynch. It’s also now not that far away from having a female referee. However, instead of breaking a glass ceiling, it is, in fact, a retread. Today we look at the first female referee in the WWE.
The WWE has made some big strides in giving women their proper spotlight within the company the last few years. No longer are women referred to as “Divas” and pillow and lingerie matches have been replaced with Hell in a Cell and ladder matches. Even the “girly” looking pink and purple butterfly Divas title has been replaced with a much more traditional looking belt design. In the spring of 2017, the WWE announced an all women’s tournament aka the Mae Young Classic.
Also reported, but not getting as much fanfare, is the signing of the independent female wrestler named Kennadi Brink. While signing Brink isn’t huge news in itself, it should be noted that they really didn’t sign her to wrestle but become a WWE official. As some of you already know, while the announcement of Kennadi Brink’s signing as a female referee is big news, it is far from being historic. Brink will not be the first woman to officiate a wrestling match in the WWE.
It will be the first female referee in over 30 years! The first was a woman by the name of Rita Chatterton. Rita Marie, as she was known in the then World Wrestling Federation, was, in fact, the company’s first ever woman official. Rita Marie officiated several WWF matches that involved the likes of Terry Funk, the Moondogs, Jimmy Snuka etc. She, just like her male counterparts, did not fear jumping in and breaking up an in ring melee.
The WWF and Vince McMahon had her on as a guest of the interview program TNT aka Tuesday Night Titans, she also did a photo shoot for the WWF magazine. Behind the scenes, Rita Marie Chatterton was a single mother of a young daughter. Vince McMahon brought her in and allegedly told her she could make up to $500,000 dollars a year as the first ever female referee.
Of course, this fairy tale doesn’t have a happy ending. In July of 1986, Rita Marie would be fired. The “official” reasoning was that she just wasn’t on par with her male counterparts. A few years later, around 1992, Rita Chatterton made an appearance on the Geraldo Rivera show, ‘Now it Can be Told’, and accused Vince McMahon of sexual assault.
According to Chatterton, she approached McMahon about working some extra dates. McMahon allegedly responded by telling Chatterton to cooperate with him and he’ll give her what she wants. The two somehow ended up in McMahon’s limousine where Chatterton says McMahon got physically aggressive with her. She said McMahon pulled down his pants and had Chatterton straddle him where he “got off.”
Apparently, Chatterton had former WWF wrestler ‘Dr. D.’ David Schultz corroborate her story. The two were seeking a $5 million dollar settlement. Vince McMahon and his team of attorneys fought the suit and refused to settle out of court. McMahon had a counter suit against both Chatterton and Geraldo Rivera for what they say was a defaming piece on him.
The suit was later dropped after McMahon faced Federal charges in his famed steroid trial. The statute of limitations ran out on the case and Rita Marie fell back into obscurity. She is currently a grandmother living in upstate New York. Only Chatterton and Vince knows what really happened in that limousine.
30 years later and he we are again, the WWE, in particular, their developmental brand NXT, has a female referee. Only time will tell if Kennadi Brink becomes a full-time official or will eventually wrestle. It’s a big step for the WWE. Let’s just hope there are no scandals attached on this second go around.